Koimonogatari and “The Road Less Travelled”

Before I start, let me just say that this opening is fascinating. A brilliant creative decision – I’d love to find out exactly who came up with the idea!

As might be expected from an arc that once again features Kaiki Deshuu, this final story, Koimonogatari, is all about lies. The contents of the lies—of Sengoku Nadeko, Senjougahara Hitagi, and Kaiki himself—may be somewhat surprising, and we may be inclined to think of the latter as an unreliable narrator. However, Nisio Isin’s musings on what lies are and how humans use them once again raise some very pertinent questions about how we lead our lives.

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“You didn’t tell anyone. That’s because this is what you consider to be your true dream, right?”

The first part of the argument involves Nadeko, who is lying that she is in love with Araragi. In reality, she is only concerned with herself, and with hiding what she really wants out of life, her biggest dream. The point that Kaiki makes in response struck a chord in me. It may indeed be true that, for most people, their greatest dream is something that they will never tell anyone. We do not tell others because we fear not being able to make it come true; we fear the failure of not being good enough to achieve that dream. We would rather it remain an unachievable fantasy, something that remains out of our reach than to experience the regret and shame of trying and failing. As Kaiki points out, however, this kind of behaviour ensures that very failure we want to avoid, for if we do not even try, then it is absolutely certain that we will not achieve that dream. Indeed, the question Nisio is asking is: which is worse? To regret failing, or to regret not trying at all?

“Why don’t you try to become a manga artist then?”

The second part of the argument involves the lies that Senjougahara and Kaiki are telling. If we believe the latter’s musings after his conversation with Yotsugi, then his dealings with the girl who’s mother had fallen into a cult take on a very different vibe. Actions were not taken to swindle an already-damaged girl; instead, they were taken in the hope that they would save her, even though they ultimately failed. And the girl did indeed fall in love with the man who had tried to help her, a reality that she would later deny in order to move on.

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“A woman I know well always treats her current romance as if it is her first.
She always looks like she’s never fallen in love with someone before.”

We are, perhaps, inclined to doubt Kaiki’s interpretation of the events. After all, he is saving Senjouhara now not for her or Araragi’s sake, but rather for the sake of the daughter of the first woman he ever loved. But what if that, too, is a lie he constructed to protect himself? As he mused after his first conversation with the god of a middle schooler, if you fall in love but never have the chance to see if that love will last, then you can remain ‘in love’ for the rest of your life. Because Kanbaru’s mother died in an accident before he could say anything, that love remains secure, and Kaiki can use the excuse of ‘it’s for her’ to save Senjougahara.

As Kaiki intoned at the beginning of this arc: “Humans have a desire for truth. That, or they have a desire to believe that what they know is the truth.”

But is it that simple? Are we just deceiving ourselves? Or do what we tell ourselves have a role in creating our reality? The other day, I came across David Orr’s reflections on how the “The Road Not Taken” is the most misread poem in the US. It’s not actually espousing the virtues of taking the less trodden path; rather, Robert Frost was making a tongue-in-cheek jab about how people often rationalise that it is their individualism that has gotten them to where they are. Orr also points out, however, that these misinterpretations have helped make the poem what it is today, at once a song about individualism and rationalisation, and at the same time, not. The very act of people claiming it to be something has cemented it as such. Similarly, Kaiki’s denial of his motives and Senjougahara’s insistence that Araragi is her first love enable them to make choices that would otherwise not be possible. The lies we tell ourselves help us create the reality we want or need. Thus, perhaps we can consciously harness them to make our biggest dreams come true?

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“Can I save my bitter enemies Senjougahara and Araragi,
and deceive Sengoku Nadeko for the sake of Kanbaru Suruga?
That’s a ‘yes’.”

After Nisemonogatari, wherein Nisio Isin wrote about two girls that were unaware that they were ‘fakes’, it might be fitting that Monogatari’s Second Season is composed largely of stories built around a different kind of ‘lie’ — the lies that people tell themselves, and and their reasons for doing so. Hanekawa and the ‘pure’ persona that she has constructed for herself; Shinobu on the relationship she wanted with Araragi; Hachikuji and the pretence that she’d ‘graduated’ into being another kind of ghost; Sengoku and her love for Araragi; and Senjougahara on her philosophy of love. In this story, we were also exposed to Kaiki’s own lies and half-truths, though we can never be sure exactly where the lies end and the truth begins. But does that really matter?

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

5 Responses to Koimonogatari and “The Road Less Travelled”

  1. sikvod00 says:

    Wow. I also recall reading somewhere that Robert Frost’s poem was so misread, but then I forgot it and continued believing what I had learned back in school. O_o Such a good example of wanting what you believe to be the truth. Wonder what the teachers who taught it thought…

    I haven’t kept up with Monogatari, but these insightful posts are a nice supplement.


    • karice says:

      I’d like to know what the teachers think too, if you ever find out! I don’t think it’s a poem we commonly study here, so I probably wouldn’t even have recognised it. Knowing our English and Literature programs here though, I’m sure our teachers would have led us to that realisation ^^

      On another note, I do like finding out about these little literary ‘lies’. This is actually the third one I’ve come across. In fact, Nisio Isin himself pointed out another that has come of of Fukuzawa Yukichi’s “An Encouragement of Learning” — the idea that ‘all men are born equal’ is the message taken from that tome, even though the title is what Fukuzawa’s main message was… ^^;;

      It’s difficult to keep up with Monogatari – that’s why I’m still reflecting on the previous two/three series even now. I think I might wait to marathon the upcoming season, because I find it easier to think about when I do that. ^^;; But the other interesting thing about it is that there’s so much to ponder that different viewers may get different messages from it. For example, Bobduh at Wrong Every Time went in a very different direction from myself, especially in terms of this last story.

      I know you haven’t kept up, but perhaps now you’ll be inspired to pick it up again? ^^;;


  2. sikvod00 says:

    I “watched” Owarimonogatari episode 1 (gonna have to go back a few times). How backwards am I? Lol.

    The theme of ‘lies’ is definitely present in that one. And it was nice to learn more about Araragi rather than focusing on the girls. Now to remember where I left off on the series….


    • karice says:

      Er…I haven’t actually started Owarimonogatari ^^; I’m planning to finish my rewatch and reflections on Hana and Tsuki first, so pardon me for not having anything to say about that yet!

      Perhaps you’ll just have to start rewatching from somewhere? If you definitely finished Nise, then perhaps Neko Black? Having just rewatched the whole of Second Season, I definitely felt that it was worthwhile watching all the mini-stories in close conjunction with each other…


  3. Pingback: Monogatari Series: Kamimashita! | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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